Any Martial Arts practitioner who sees the attainment of a Black Belt, as the inevitable final destination to their journey, is on the wrong trajectory. I say this because I, too, was on that path. I felt I had reached, what most people would consider, the pinnacle of any Martial Artists' career. The all elusive Black Belt. And once I achieved it, I asked myself, 'Now what?'
In Taekwondo, as with other Arts, there are levels to the different tiers of Black Belts. We call them Dans. I have met and seen a vast number of people with many Dans, but personally I do not carry a huge belief in this system. I have heard many people tell me what Martial Art they do, followed by their need to tell me what Dan they are (this is a sense of chasing validation for some. And the higher the Dan, the higher the validation).
For one, my measurement of somebody's skill and love in Martial Arts is not derived by their belts. But rather by how they've used the craft to better their own wellbeing both mentally and physically. The journey to a black belt is a very personal one. Throughout the years, you are battling against yourself. Your physical barriers. Your mental demons. So are we saying that once that belt is obtained, all those barriers and demons are gone? Far from it. And this is where the misconceptions lie.
A long time ago, I was told why the belts go from White to Black. The white belt signifies 'Innocence' and the reason why it is white, is because no dirt has been accumulated yet. And as you rise up through the ranks and get to Black, you would have ideally been through so much training, sacrifice and commitment, that your belt is now covered in all the glory of the toil. Whether this is true or not, I do not care. I choose to believe this narrative.
And with such a narrative, one cannot simply walk away after getting that black belt. There is an innate feeling amongst true Martial Artists, that every single piece of knowledge and information acquired over the years, has to be shared and passed down to the younger generation. And this is the trajectory.
I know full well how Martial Arts helped my life as a young boy. It taught me to walk with my back straight and shoulders out. I learnt to look people in the eyes with confidence and to never drop my chin. I was made aware of my potential through rigorous tests of endurance. And I took all of those lessons, and applied them to every aspect of my life both professionally and personally.
I would not be comfortable with myself if I decided not to share these wonderful experiences and lessons with those that come after me. If Martial Arts had a part to play in the person that I am today, then I have a responsibility to pass that down to the younger generation. As a Black Belt, the journey is forever ongoing and there is no final destination.
Perhaps the best way to put it is this - Attaining a Black Belt may mean that you have reached the top of the Hill. But, you are very much, still at the foot of the Mountain.